Over the past few weeks we have been studying Luke 21:5-38 in a series entitled “Shadow to Substance”. The phrase “Shadow to Substance” is important in the reading of our text because in verses 20-28 Jesus has a two-fold mission of preparation for His disciples. Therefore, in this sermon, we shall make two passes through the text to show the “shadow” of fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. and the “substance” of fulfillment in the destruction of Earth at the end of the age.
The Shadow: The Destruction of Jerusalem
Our first pass through the text reveals Jesus preparing His disciples for the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The most important message in Jesus’ teaching is that this catastrophic event meant desolation for one group and redemption for another group. Notice that while He gave no specific date, He made sure to reveal the signs of its coming.
Desolation is Near. The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple meant desolation for those who were in rebellion against Christ. Israel had been warned in Deuteronomy 28 that Israel would be deported and scattered from the land if they refused to obey the Lord. Israel was deported and scattered for their wickedness by the Babylonians in 587 B.C. and was restored 70 years later after the land enjoyed its rest (2 Chron 36:21).
In Jesus’ day, Israel had once again turned away from the Lord and refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah. Therefore, once again, Israel would be scattered. Jesus said, “when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that its desolation has come near” (20). The disciples knew this would not be the Babylonians but the Romans because Rome had conquered Israel many years earlier. This would be a time to flee and not enter Judea (21) because of the great distress (23) and death (24). Jesus said in verse 22 that these were “days of vengeance to fulfill all the things that are written” (22). The curses for disobedience (Deut 28) were coming upon Israel again and “Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (24) because they failed to “recognize the time of your visitation” (19:44).
Redemption is Near. The destruction of the Temple meant redemption for those who were in relationship with Christ. In verse 28, Jesus said: “when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near” (28)! How can an event that brought desolation for one group bring redemption for another group? For the Christians during this time, this event was a pivotal act that freed them from the Old Covenant and its laws and regulations. While Jesus’ death burial and resurrection was the essential act that brought the New Covenant, the existence of the Temple remained a hindrance for many (See Galatians, Hebrews, and Acts 15). With Christ, there is no more need for a physical Temple. In the Old Covenant, God’s presence was manifest in the Most Holy Place. In the New Covenant, God’s presence is manifest in His Holy People. In the Old Covenant, sacrifices of bulls and goats were offered for the forgiveness of sins. In the New Covenant, the perfect sacrifice has been made. Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. was an important action by the Lord to vindicate Christians and the message of Christ.
The Substance: The Destruction of Earth
Our second pass through the text reveals Jesus also preparing His disciples for the destruction of Earth. As before, the most important message in Jesus’ teaching is that this catastrophic event will mean desolation for one group and redemption for another. Notice that while He gave no specific time or date, He made sure to reveal the signs of its coming.
Desolation is Near. The destruction of Earth means desolation for those who are in rebellion against Christ. The Bible is clear that “the present heavens and earth are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). Who are these ungodly men? Romans 1 tells us that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom 1:18). Romans 1 gives us a description of what it looks like for people to live in open rebellion against God:
- they suppress the plain truth of God (18-19) and refuse to honor or thank Him (21),
- they claim to be wise and knowledgeable but love creation more than the Creator,
- they dishonor their bodies through sexual perversion (24-27),
- their minds are so debased that they not only practice sexual perversion, but encourage others to do so as well and even persecute those who hold to Biblical morality (28-32).
Romans 2 tells us that there are also ungodly men who outwardly appear obedient but their hearts are far from Christ. They are religious but without a relationship with Christ. They are hypocrites who fail to remember that love is the fulfillment of the Law (Rom 13:10). Their desolation is near because they are far from Christ and still bear their sin.
Redemption is Near. The destruction of Earth means redemption for those who were in relationship with Christ. Jesus said in verse 28: “Now when you see these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 2 Peter 3:13 says, “Based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.” Those who have a personal relationship with Christ will see His return as a great time of redemption.